The Slough of Despond

We accumulate bound phrases hat stick in our minds and slither out now and again to sun themselves, often without obvious connection to their original context. The Slough of Despond is one of those for me. The inner voice proposed it to the pen in my hand and I inscribed it on the yellow pad... then thought "now where did that come from" and vaguely remembered Bunyan's Pilgrim's Progress, where I'd seen it on a map of Pilgrim's Journey. But it came into my mind as an apt characterization of a state of mind or being, a mot juste. Two Dictionary renderings:

...a state of extreme despondency, depression, or degradation
(Collins Dictionary)

...a mental state in which a person feels no hope and is very afraid
(Oxford Learner's Dictionary)

For Bunyan, the Slough is an embodiment of Sin, the guilt and sins that Pilgrim is under the weight of, his "spiritual discouragement". gives the full text

The Sloo/Slow/Sluff of Despond (from A Pilgrim in Narnia)

Fun with the word itself, really quite a nice and far-ranging essay
the idea of a "Slough of Despond in his mind, a slough that he carried everywhere with him" is a terrible break in the allegory. After all, what else is this if not a story that we carry around with us in spiritual life? ...

Finally, Christian makes it out of the Slough of Despond, but still has a burden he carries—the very burden that weighted him down within the mire. Eventually, though, he is able to cast off his burden. In a beautiful synchronicity of language, in teaching the text a couple of weeks ago, I said, "And Christian sloughed off his burden..."

Google search for 'Slough of despond''s scholastic and rather pedestrian rendering:

What does the phrase "slough of despond" mean?
John Bunyan's 1687 novel, Pilgrim's Progress, is a Christian allegory. In contemporary language, the Slough of Despond from the novel translates to extreme depression or state of despondency.

What happened to Pliable in the Slough of Despond?

Pliable, the neighbor who agrees to accompany Christian on the path to the Celestial City, fights his way back to the edge of the swamp closest to his home. When Pliable frees himself from the Slough of Despond, he leaves Christian to continue suffering on his own. Finally, Christian arrives on the side of the swamp closest to the Wicket Gate.

What does the Slough of Despond symbolize in the Pilgrim's Progress?

The Slough of Despond symbolizes a great deal to Bunyan's reader. The swamp represents the weight of one's sin experienced throughout a Christian life.

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Help Arrives

Help Raises Christian out of the Slough of Despond (David Scott 1881)